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Free Study Guide: The Trial by Franz Kafka - Synopsis / Analysis

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Major Themes

The trial is a crisis in the life of the chief clerk, Joseph K. The unrest within him impels him to seek justice. Symbolically this is a divine challenge to man. The officials' routine order of everyday life has been disrupted by the chaotic world of the law courts. The trial makes K. realize his feelings. His failings cannot be judged in a public trial. The spiritual urges within him act as the judge. His "bad conscience" drives him to court seeking justice. There is no specific crime or point of failure.


The mood is of unrelenting seriousness and involvement with K.'s trial. K.'s introspection, stumbling and his reactions are briefly interspersed with climatic changes in the weather. Other peoples' lives around K., their joys and celebrations are completed left out (For e.g. the novel’s arena). Nor is there any source of comfort or hope in K.'s life.

Franz Kafka - BIOGRAPHY

Franz Kafka was born on July 3, 1883 in Prague, Austria-Hungary (now part of the Czech Republic). He was the oldest of six children to his middle-class Jewish parents.

The inhumanity and absurdity of the modern age are mirrored in Kafka's writing. The stubbornness and inflexible attitude of the bureaucracy in every profession, including court proceedings or visa facility. The obvious, liberal democratic systems of the world blocking the individuals right to seek justice forms the background.

Kafka's mastery is evident in 'The judgement' which came to light on the night of September 1912. The theme of guilt dealt with in 'The Trial' already has its genesis in 'The judgement'. Bureaucracy, which is the ultimate refuge for the common man's survival and retribution for any loss that he might face is the subject of his books. Kafka is extremely concerned with man's struggle for survival in the modern world. He is also anxious about the morality and capability of man in facing the corrupt forces in society. Social satire is also the subject of 'The Castle'.

Kafka's first and most humorous novel 'Amerika' tells the story of the young immigrant by the name of Karl Rossman. It is full of picaresque adventures and bizarre escapades. His next work 'The Castle' is considered his must read autobiographical work in its struggle against stubborn authority to enter a castle. 'The Complete Stories' is an expression of the modern man's fears and attempt to oppose them. It has all his stories except the three novels or Kafka's dairies: 'The Complete Diaries of Franz Kafka' are not available in a single volume. His 'Letters To Friends Family And Editors' are a wonderful portrait of the man behind his art. His other stories are 'The Metamorphosis' 'In The Penal Colony', 'A Country Doctor' and "A Hunger Artist."

Kafka died in Vienna on June 3, 1924 after battling many illnesses and medical problems including tuberculosis. Most of his works were published after his death, including The Trial.


There is considerable seriousness of his work, Kafka is also a social satirist, a fine craftsman, crafting his grotesque picture with the eye of the humorist drawing out the farcical and slapstick elements. Even the execution in the 'The Trial' has touches of a circus. Kafka was influenced by the ‘Comediena Humane’of Balza C, the caricatures of Danmier with its depiction of judges, advocates and slumbering judges, we have replicas of Jarndyce us Jarndyce in Dickens' 'Bleak House'. The clerk’s self importance in the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century, the atmosphere of the bureaucracy were the subjects of the novels of his days. Kafka also rend a great deal of Russian fiction, Gogol, Dostoevesky. The persona of his fiction is the poor man who needs his help. He is trapped in a maze of bureaucratic procedures, Banks, Courts, Tribunals, lawyers and the decaying Austro-Hungarian monarchy.

Further Kafka has re examined and boldly rewritten some basic mythological takes from Ancient Israel, Hellas, the far East and the West. They were fantastic creations of his very own imagination.

Of all his works the three classic stories of filial revolt are "The Metamorphoisis", "The Judgement" and ‘The Stoker’ along with his poignant "Letter to his Father."

"The Trial" stretches our thinking to its ultimate limits. It is a play on the problem of absurdity in human lives, for absurd and inessential things greatly occupy modern living.

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